HIS 104 Chapter 3.6: HIS 104 Chapter 3.: Chapter Three (Part 6)
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~ Chapter Three: From Classical Greece to the Hellenistic
Part 6: A Cosmopolitan Culture
o The spread of public teachers and schools helps to explain how in many cities, both new and old, a
Greek-speaking elite came into being.
o Its members were diverse in their origins but unified in their culture:
▪ Exercised in the nude
▪ Practiced rhetoric
▪ Produced Greek literature of their own
New Types of Literature
o A new literature addressed the comic qualities of everyday life.
o Aristophanes’s comedies amused and enraged the citizens of Athens in the 5th century,
concerned with weighty issues such as war and peace.
o Meander, his successor, staged everyday life in exaggerated form.
o Hellenistic poets did not address great political and religious themes as often as the tragedians of
classical Athens had, but they staged difficult emotional situations with a precision, insight, and
empathy that lent their work much charm.
o Charm, in fact, became one of the central characteristics of Hellenistic literature.
▪ A new genre was created called pastoral, the escapists literature of a sophisticated
▪ Allusive, sophisticated poetry like this appealed to the rulers and courtiers of the
• It attracted readers whose education enabled them to recognize allusions to
older texts and who appreciated word games and riddles.
o In the Hellenistic world, poetry was written for the highly cultivated members of courts.
New Philosophies: Epicureans and Stoics
o This elegant new literature speaks of a Greek culture that stretched across the Mediterranean, one in
which poets and playwright read and responded to one another.
o This new environment fostered Greek philosophy as well.
▪ Plato’s Academy and Aristotle’s Lyceum existed through the Hellenistic period, but
new schools of philosophy flanked them.
o The philosopher Epicurus founded a school in Athens called The Garden.
o He and his followers insisted that the entire universe consisted of matter in motion.
o They traced the creation of the cosmos back to an accidental collision of primary particles.
▪ This vision, radically different from the ordered, hierarchical ones that Plato and
Aristotle had imagined, filled the Epicureans with hope.
• Epicureans: Followers of the Hellenistic philosopher Epicurus (314-270
BCE), who broke from the classical Greek model of an ordered and rational
universe and argued for something more chaotic and random. Epicureans
tried to gain peace of mind through the rational pursuit of pleasure.
o Zeno and Cleanthes taught in the Athenian building known as the Stoa and came to be known as
▪ They saw the universe as animated by a divine spirit and insisted that the
reasonable person should abandon fear and all other excessive emotions.
• Once realized that the universe is ordered by a superhuman fate, one could
cease to hope for mastery or struggle for the unobtainable.
o The Epicureans formed something like a religious brotherhood, whose members followed detailed
instructions for dress and diet.
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